I’ve always found it odd when people wonder why a Japanese developer or publisher doesn’t release their most successful franchises outside of their country. I found the answer to be quite simple: we just have different tastes in games. Distributed by XSEED Games Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is one of those games that I find quite confusing because it’s the eleventh game in the long running franchise but only the second game to see a release outside of Japan.
The world of Onechanbara has a rich and complicated history spanning the ten titles before it, making Onechanbara Z2: Chaos very hard to follow especially since the game talks about past events. The game follows four sisters who join forces to fight the undead hordes that have spread throughout the world. Kagura and Saaya, despite being sisters, absolutely hate each other due to their split allegiance in a tribal war against Vampiric and Boneful Clanes. They are joined by younger sisters Aya and Saki to round up the party of four. Throughout the game the banter between the four characters is very entertaining due to their unique personalities, and had me laughing during some key moments in the game.
The meat of the game comes from its combat. Dozens of zombies attack you at once and the the fast and furious combat holds up to the task quite well. Playing like a mix between Devil May Cry and Dynasty Warriors, you attack with weak and strong attacks alternating between the two; it’s not as in depth as Devil May Cry but also not as simple as Dynasty Warriors. Characters can transform when they build up three blue bars of health. This transformed state is like the Devil Trigger from Devil May Cry, increasing your strength making you faster and changing the appearance of your characters.
The boss fights can be quite fun and also quite challenging. These fights are most fun when facing giant monstrosities. After winding down their health you enter into a short "quick time event" where you slide your finger on the touchpad in the corresponding direction and watch as the monsters get dismembered and try to fight without their arms. One boss even gets cut in half and you have to fight both his upper and lower half.
Onechanbara tries to be more complicated than it should. Adding something called “cool” attacks, these attacks are activated when you time your assaults perfectly — you know you’ve succeeded when your character’s hands glow blue. These attacks increase your attack power and also give you access to new moves. The problem with activating the “cool” attacks is that you never really pay attention to your timing when you are in a middle of a dozen enemies trying to kill you. This is made even worse when you encounter enemies that can only be killed by these “cool” attacks or something more powerful.
Some other features include having the ability to heal yourself by pushing two specific buttons at the same time, but this feature is only reserved for the two Vampiric characters, while the Boneful characters have to stick to healing items. Having four characters allows you to switch between any of them with a simple tap of the d-pad. Switching characters is not only essential its the only way to survive because you will take some heavy damage. Each character has their strengths and weaknesses, Kagura, for example, is fast and can string a lot of combos together, while Saki uses more powerful hand-to-hand combat focusing on single enemies rather than groups . You can also tap the touchpad and have all four characters join the battle, leading to some over-the-top action with blood and limbs flying all over the battlefield.
You unlock and upgrade new moves by collecting yellow orbs that you earn from defeating your foes. This again is a nice addition but most of the time you won’t be using any of the moves unlocked due to them being overly complicated to pull off; and, quite frankly, using your normal simple combos gets the job done faster. Buying weapons is also a must as your original ones grow weak early in the game. There is one thing I should also mention about the weapons. When in combat your weapons get covered in blood, which is indicated by your equipped weapon icon. The more blood on the weapon the weaker it gets, forcing you to clean the blood off by pressing the L1 button. This feature is a nuisance and just gets in the way of the combat and your ability to pull of long combos seeing as you have to stop and clean them during combat.
At first glance the title looks like an oversexualized game with female characters dressed in bikinis, however it’s not forced or oversexualized in the way you think. Outside of the bikinis that two of the characters wear the game never really exploits this fact. Costumes can be changed in the main menu to give them more clothing if you like, or change to a different bikini outfit instead. The camera during cutscenes doesn’t get positioned to show of the characters “attributes” either; at least not that I saw.
You can customize the characters with plenty of outfits and accessories. These range from ribbons to french toast, yes, I said…french toast. You can move, rotate, and position these accessories wherever you want. Don’t know where to put that french toast? Well, you can put it on her head, in her hand, or in her mouth as if she’s eating it. Of course not everyone will be as clean minded with these accessories but that’s the beauty of the feature: freedom of choice.
The main characters are modeled with some good detail and animated beautifully. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the rest of the game. Zombies and the rest of the monsters you encounter look muddy and badly animated while environments look like they were ripped from the PlayStation 2 era. The variety in locales is nice, but the bland textures and countless invisible walls show the low budget the game had. The saving grace is the soundtrack. Awesome J-Pop surrounds the combat along with some great instrumental rock. The voice acting is also well done both from the english dub and the Japanese dub. It’s great that the game supports dual audio tracks.
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos may look like a game trying to capitalize on its attractive bikini-wearing female cast, but deep down it’s a fun action title that runs smooth, sounds great, and is genuinely quite funny. It’s a bit disappointing to know that a title with such a long history hasn’t been given the budget to improve on its flaws, but it’s $40 budget price reflects its overall quality.